This may be one of the greatest stories never told. The superintendent of the St. Louis public schools goes into a high school economics class to monitor the discussion. He expects to hear the students and teacher talking about the federal budget or some such topic. Instead, the teacher was instructing the students on how to use food stamps.
That brief tale is a snapshot of why many urban school districts fail. In St. Louis, for example, 73 percent of 9th graders lack the credits to move on to the 10th grade.
Given that dreary outlook, the St. Louis schools announced today a plan to change the culture of the school system. Among the changes is a proposal to mandate school uniforms in some schools and to extend the school year for some struggling students. The plan would also experiment with one boys-
only school and one girls-only school.
It's hoped the changes will improve the performance of the St. Louis schools which have historically lagged behind others across the state. But much of the improvement plan depends on an infusion of federal dollars and that question remains in doubt.
St. Louis schools have also struggled with a discipline problem for years and the plan calls for tougher policies to address problem students.
All of these ideas have great merit and we hope they are successful. I have always argued that it's not the schools that fail the students, it's the parents that fail the students. And this plan - like all others - fails to address that issue because it's virtually impossible to mandate responsibility among parents. But without a change at the home front, the schools can only accomplish so much.
We highly commend the courageous proposals offered to improve schools in St. Louis. Maybe this is a step toward some long-needed improvements there.